Sitting in a room with fellow team members and higher-up employees, someone suggests a solution for a work problem. No one in the room acknowledges they said anything. A few moments later, someone beside them says the same thing and receives appreciation for the good idea.
For many women and minority computer scientists, including Charles Campbell, UNC alum and co-founder of the (now-closed) online shopping mall Socialvest, experiences like this cause him to question if his ideas are not being heard because he is not white, like the majority of people in the computer science industry and academia.
Campbell wondered if no one listened to him in this situation because he is Black.
Taking time to shed light on these experiences of women and minorities in technology, the UNC Computer Science Diversity Panel showcased the difficulties these groups can face while also celebrating their accomplishments Wednesday night.
The panel featured Campbell; Tanya Amert, a third-year Ph.D. candidate and former Microsoft software development engineer; Diane Pozefsky, director of Undergraduate Studies and computer science professor; and computer science students Sydney Mantell and Armando Jimenez.
In his own experience, Campbell could not tell if no one acknowledged him because of race or because he was one of the newer members of the team.
“It was almost like a twilight zone,” Campbell said.
Amert has also dealt with similar issues in meetings as a woman, but now makes her voice heard by raising her hand.
“I found it very successful — which fits with my personality, fortunately — to channel Hermione Granger and in the middle of a loud meeting, if they're completely not listening, I'm sitting there like this in a meeting full of guys,” Amert said, with her arm raised. “And eventually, they're going to be like, 'Why is she raising her hand?' They're all going to be silent and then I can talk.”